“The Commuter” comes roaring onscreen as an entertaining actioner, a temporary cure for the winter doldrums.
The first sequences in the film are really cool to watch. Jaume Collet-Serra (“The Shallows”) cleverly shows the passage of time with quick seconds of everyday life that show a typical middle-class family living their normal routines.
The dad, of course, is Liam Neeson (Michael MacCauley), an insurance salesman who once was a police officer. Michael, who is five years away from retirement, wonders how he will pay for his son’s tuition.
And now he’s being laid off. In a scene that evokes sympathy from the audience, he has a drink with friend while he wonders how he’s going to tell his wife (Elizabeth McGovern). He boards his usual commuter train only to be approached by a stranger (Vera Farmiga) who calls herself Joanna.
She claims to be a behaviorist, and asks whether he would do “one little thing” for $100,000. His assignment is to find someone known as Prynne, whom a certain group of people seek.
Then Joanna leaves the train. Michael does indeed find money where Joanna says it will be hidden. His attempt to alert the authorities ends in disaster.
When Michael begins receiving calls from Joanna, he realizes he is being watched, and that both he and his target — someone carrying a bag whose destination is Cold Spring — are in danger.
Now, because this is a Neeson movie, and you’ve probably seen the trailers, it’s not a spoiler to share that a kidnapping is part of the proceedings, and that some of the characters Are Not What They Seem. It’s up to Michael, within just a few stops, to figure out exactly what’s going on and how he can stop it.
Michael must rely on what he already knows about the train, what he can figure out from what he sees around him and his professional law-enforcement experience and training to solve the mystery and save lives — including his own.
It’s fun to watch Michael as he uses the process of elimination to try to determine the passenger he’s supposed to find. The commuters are various types, some of whom we root for and others who rub us the wrong way. There’s a great scene involving a poker game that heats up Michael’s search.
It has kind of a “Fast and Furious” vibe, in fact: It’s a great ride if you can suspend your disbelief.
If you’re a Neeson fan, you’re sure to be taken with this popcorn flick.